As an education major, we spend a lot time learning about what it takes to be a "star teacher" that supports his or her students to give them the best education they can, no matter the socioeconomic status of his or her classroom. We learn about helpful technology, how to make a lesson plan, how to help students with disabilities, and so much more. This major is often seen as "easy" or "joke" because instead of having tests or finals, we have projects. But the truth in the matter is, not anyone can be a teacher.
Being a teacher requires more than just being able to recognize students that may need extra support or being able to manage a rowdy classroom. One of the most important factors that a teacher needs to have is a strong sense of empathy. The ability to humble themselves, put themselves aside, and to strongly relate to their students. A strong teacher remembers that he or she does not know everything and makes mistakes of their own, but has a strong listening ear to listen to the needs of their students. A strong teacher develops a sort of friendship built on understanding with their students, and wants to help see them succeed. Sounds easy right? Wouldn't you think that most teachers exemplify this already?
However, in my observations in the classroom and just throughout my personal experience I've noticed many more teachers in the opposite. Growing up in a small school setting, I had amazing teachers who got to know me personally and support me in my endeavors, which only encouraged me to be a teacher myself. But more recently upon entering the field of study I've noticed many a student who haven't had the same kind of teachers I did.
These teachers don't call their students by name, they demand respect but rarely get it from their students. They raise their voices and point out particular students in the wrong, and almost intimidate their students into learning.
I've talked to a fifteen year old student in the seventh grade, who told me himself that he has been held back because he didn't have the necessary support that teachers are supposed to provide their students, saying: "where I grew up my teachers would tell me that I wasn't going to amount to anything, and end up just like my parents." How is this student, this child, supposed to believe in himself if his own teachers don't? Children's minds are moldable, they believe what they are told to until they can learn to think for themselves. He has been held back because he couldn't find the motivation to work when his own teachers couldn't find the motivation in themselves to fully believe in him. Instead they looked at his socioeconomic status and applied him to the stereotype.
I've been told by another college student how her professor couldn't even look her in the eyes, much less answer her questions on her work because that particular professor takes pride in having students not pass her class. This is called a superiority complex. This professor has been known to keep students from being able to get into Texas A&M based on not being able to pass her one class.
What kind of teacher takes pride in failing her students? What kind of teacher, let alone human being, has the right to tell anyone that they will not amount to anything? Isn't the job of a teacher to support their students and provide them with the tools necessary to succeed? This is the marking of a teacher who incorrectly assumes that they are superior because they have control of a classroom, the kind of teacher who wants to be a teacher because they want to have power to feel accomplished, not for the good of shaping a child's life.
It is in my firm belief that a teacher should encourage and believe in their students, because a teacher knows that each child is important and can amount to something as long as they believe in and apply themselves. Children must know that others believe in them so that they can also believe in themselves. Children need to know that they are important, that they are supported, that they are capable. They can amount to anything they set their minds to.
Teachers who must impatiently yell at their students to get them to participate, who don't take the time to look into their students eyes, or call them by name don't earn the respect of their students and thus do not make relationships with them. Teachers who avoid confrontation or have the mindset of "what I say goes", and who rarely change the models of their classroom. These are the individuals who should not be teaching.
We are taught as education majors that a "star teacher" makes connections, makes relationships, and connects with their students with empathy to help see them grow into the future and provide them with quality education. A "star teacher" is one who earns the respect of her students by believing in them. But the thing is, this shouldn't be the criteria for a "star teacher" or a "good teacher" it should simply be the criteria to be a teacher anywhere. Empathy and understanding are the foundation of teaching. If you can't bring it in you to humble yourself and put your pride aside to patiently encourage even the most difficult of students, then you shouldn't be a teacher. So, do you have what it takes?
Special thanks to Mrs. Kilpatrick, who has taught me what it takes to be an incredible teacher, mentor, and friend, and has encouraged me every step of the way. She exemplifies everything a teacher should be, and more.